I was born and grew up in Hungary. My parents are missionaries and left their lives in the States to share the gospel to people who spoke a very different language from them and whose culture was totally different from theirs.
Growing up was a little like having split personalities. At home, we were Americans, spoke English, ate American food, watched CNN, and talked to our grandparents back in America. Everywhere else, we were Hungarians, spoke Hungarian, went to Hungarian school, studied Hungarian History and Grammar, watched Hungarian movies, and read Hungarian classics for our Lit classes. Most people couldn't tell we were Americans just by looking at us. But of course, as soon as you got to know me and my siblings, there was a pretty clear difference. The way we were raised, our family culture, and especially our "American religion" was all strange to the average Hungarian.
But when we came back to the States to visit family and friends, we stuck out like sore thumbs. We didn't know much American slang, we hadn't seen most of the popular shows or listened to the music everyone was talking about, and we just didn't seem to click with the Western, consumerist worldview all the kids our age seemed to have.
I felt like I didn't fit in with either life, not entirely. I was on my own, drifting from one culture to the other. I thought nobody else understood me and what I was going through. I mean, how many Hungarian/American people do you know?
It was an isolating lifestyle, but one I almost enjoyed. I liked being different, being "misunderstood." It seemed like a noble life, but it was a lonely one. Instead of trying to find similarities to others, I'd look at our differences and draw further into myself.
But do you know what I realized a long time later? That my uniqueness wasn't that unique. The fact is, most of us don't feel like we fit in. We feel misunderstood and wallow in how alone we are. But if we all feel alone in whatever we're dealing with, doesn't that mean we aren't alone? We all kind of get it. We all bring very different, very unique experiences to the table. And yes, others might not understand everything we've been through. That's why we need to share, so we can grow and learn from each other.
When I wrote Perfect, I thought I was the only one dealing with these feelings of trying to fit in and please everyone. So I was pretty shocked when the overwhelming majority of people who read it (Even older women! Even men!) got it. It was awesome and a little humiliating to realize something I'd embraced for so long was so wrong.
We all feel lonely. We all feel misunderstood. But that shouldn't push us apart. It should bring us together! Let's share in those things that make us human, those battles we all fight. When my weird American/Hungarian self opened up to a Hispanic girl who'd lived in Miami, Florida her whole life, to a missionary kid to Africa who'd moved around a lot, to a girl who'd never left Hungary, I realized how much we had in common. I'd never have known just by looking at them, but they became some of my best friends.
Yes, we're all different. But not as different as we think. We are not alone. We just need to look a little closer, dig a little deeper, and love a little more.